Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Letters of Don DeLillo from the Ransom Center

"One of the most interesting components of an archive is correspondence. Many archives are filled with letters. Norman Mailer's papers, for example, include thousands of letters that document more than 60 years of his life. Mailer kept both incoming letters and copies of his outgoing correspondence with family, friends, fellow writers, business associates, politicians, activists, and fans, among others. Other archives, like the papers of David Foster Wallace, include very little correspondence.

Correspondence can help illuminate the creative process behind the work of a writer or artist while also providing a glimpse into the personal thoughts and the day-to-day activities that fill a life. Such information can help one better understand a writer or artist, and thus correspondence is often of great interest to biographers and scholars. Many writers  are talented correspondents who have mastered letter wrtiging as an art. The letters of James Salter, for example, are often as lyrical and perfectly crafted as his novels." -Ransom Center

Here's a letter from Don DeLillo to publisher Bob Mills. DeLillo at this point has only had short stories published and he's asking Mills to take a look at some of his pieces. In his letter he states he's working on a 'longer book', which we're assuming in this instance is Americana published in 1971.

In the following letter, DeLillo writes to Norman Mailer about The Time Of Our Time, a book with a similarly sweeping scope. DeLillo tells Mailer that the "inexhaustible subject, America, throbs through much of the book, through nearly all of it. What ready explanation for the broad dimensions of the book. If contemporary Americans are the only novelists to believe in the big book, still, it's only because this culture dares and tempts and troubles us into matching the powerful spin-out size of the forces around us."

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